France and Portugal fans from as far afield as Switzerland and the South Pacific gathered Sunday at the Stade de France stadium or took in the sights in Paris as they prepared to watch their teams meet in the European Championship final.
Fans mingled peacefully outside the stadium amid tight security in a city still on high terror alert in the aftermath of Nov. 13 attacks by Islamic extremists that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. That night of bloodshed started when three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Stade de France.
Hours before kickoff, a long line of police vans was parked alongside the main road near a metro station and officers in body armor stood outside a high fence ringing the stadium.
As the game began at 9 pm, a small group of young troublemakers and riot police clashed in downtown Paris under the Eiffel Tower, a few hundred meters (yards) from a huge fan zone and giant screen relaying the game.
Police used tear gas to disperse the troublemakers, pushing them away from the Eiffel Tower and the crowd of about 80,000 people watching the game. The troublemakers appeared to want to break into the fan zone.
Some garbage was set alight in the street under the massive tower, which dominates the Paris landscape.
Mathias Vicherat, the Paris mayor’s chief of staff, said Saturday some 1,900 police and other security officers would patrol the 92,000-capacity fan zone in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. The city’s police chief, Michel Cadot, said 3,400 officers would patrol the Champs-Elysees, where fans are expected to mass after the match.
Jean-Paul Ausu left the palm-fringed beaches of New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific, and flew 22,000 kilometers (13,670 miles) to be in France for the tournament. He still wasn’t sure he’d make it into the game.
“We tried to find tickets but haven’t been able to find any,” Ausu said. “We’re trying now to see what we can do at the (French Football) Federation’s sales point, but we’re still waiting.”
Portugal fans Mickael and Anna Polo-Carvalho, had a much shorter trip to get to the match - driving a few hundred kilometers (miles) from their home in Switzerland - and were planning to motor back again after the match.
“We found tickets at the very last minute. We thought, let’s drop off the kids at their grandparents and we hit the road. It all went fine,” Anna Polo-Carvalho said. “When we got here, we visited the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysees and we started preparing ourselves psychologically for this match. We’ll see who wins but we hope it’s Portugal. Tonight, it’s straight to the car and back at work tomorrow morning at nine.”
Patrick Baeurer looked slightly out of place in his Germany shirt as he entered the Stade de France.
Baeurer, 22, won two tickets in a competition for videos showing football freestyle skills. “I had thought Germany would make it to the final, but unfortunately they lost last week to France,” he said. He was tipping France to win 2-1, thanks to its home advantage.
Long before the final, Laura Bounineau knew she would be a winner come the final whistle. “My dad is French, my mother Portuguese, so I’m supporting both nations and proud of it,” she said. “There’s no problem: I will be happy tonight no matter what.”